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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 16:42 GMT
Thailand protects famous tuk-tuks
Tuk-tuk stuck in a flood
Tuk-tuks are designed for tropical climates
By the BBC's Larry Jagan in Bangkok

The Thai Government wants to preserve the world famous tuk-tuk - a motorcycle taxi - as uniquely Thai.

It has urged the makers to challenge a British company which has registered a modified version of the vehicle as the MMW Tuk-Tuk 2000.


I have been urging manufacturers and exporters that... they should protect their rights by registering the trade mark

Deputy Commerce Minister Dr Suvarn Valaisathein
The deputy commerce minister, Dr Suvarn Valaisathein, who is leading a campaign to defend Thai goods, says everyone knows the tuk-tuk is a Thai symbol.

He says Thailand must defend its rights more vigorously and that many other products are under threat.

"The tuk-tuk name has become quite generic - when you say tuk-tuk everybody knows it is a tricycle.

"However, we have been talking to the inventor and trademark owner and saying that if they want to take any action we can give them advice."

Symbol challenged

Tourists and locals alike use tuk-tuks to beat the horrendous traffic jams in the capital, Bangkok.

As they weave through blocked roads, their distinctive colours makes them a unique part of Thai life.

But this symbol of Thailand was challenged when a British company imported tuk-tuks and modified them to be safe and fast enough for European roads.

MMW Imports, of Newport, Wales, registered the vehicle as a car with the UK's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency but has not sought a trademark.

Traffic jam in Bangkok
Bangkok suffers from serious traffic jams
Dr Suvarn isn't too concerned about competition in Europe, but he has his eye on other potential export markets.

The Thai tuk-tuk is designed for tropical climates, and experts do not believe the MMW Tuk-Tuk can compete with the real thing in this market.

"The big markets would be in India, Pakistan Brunei and Brazil - the tropical zone," Dr Suvarn said.

"I have been urging manufacturers and exporters that, if they find a large market, they should protect their rights by registering the trade mark, trade name and also the patent."

Complacency widespread

Although there are only 500 workers in the factory which makes Thailand's tuk-tuks, the output is worth more than $10m a year.

The government now wants Thai manufacturers and exporters to register patents and trademarks - locally and abroad - as fast as possible.

So far, the concern does not seem to have jolted many manufacturers out of their complacency.

Dr Suvarn says it is up to the private sector to protect its products - in the meantime there is no doubt that the Bangkok tuk-tuk will remain a lasting symbol of Thailand.

See also:

21 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Bangkok to combat traffic congestion
12 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thai drivers face platform shoe ban
30 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Bangkok's 'Lady Buses' on road
20 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thai surfers dodge traffic jams
05 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Skytrain to clear the Bangkok air
05 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
Bangkok's Skytrain goes into service
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